Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts
of those who travel the way with us.
So be swift to love, and make haste to be kind.
Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881).
I have been in a strange place for the last week or so. Not depressed, exactly, but just feeling intensely intense. Tears just below the surface, perhaps. Last night I realized that this is the one-year anniversary of my brush with death, and I think my body is remembering what my memory bypasses.
I don’t intend to burden you with every detail of my personal journey through that time. It strikes me, however, that we who live in a beloved community are called to a vulnerable transparency; it is in sharing our stories that we become God’s loving witnesses for each other and the world beyond.
The memory of my first morning in the ICU: through the sheer window shade, I could watch the sun come up. It was the most beautiful, overwhelming sight I had ever seen. I've witnessed many sunrises, but nothing could compare to this one … because I was alive to see it. Through my tears and from every cell in my body, I raised a “thank you, God, for another day.” Why had I not known how blessed I was for all those other sunrise mornings? What is it about living, truly living, that is so easy to take for granted?
This afternoon, I sat with a beloved friend and fellow parishioner as he draws close to death. We have had many conversations over the past months about gratitude for the gift of living, and there has been a lot of living going on. It’s not just about being alive; real living is about pouring into this God-given life all the love, compassion, mercy and grace we can summon from our stories. It’s what makes each of us who we are—it’s personal.
So how am I living, one year after almost not? The verdict is still out, but I think I know mercy more clearly. I hope I extend compassion a little more readily. I believe I give and receive love with far more gratitude. And I thank God that even this most difficult experience could be redeemed by growth in grace.
Our Creator calls us to authentic living with purpose and integrity. Former president Jimmy Carter speaks of living “as if Christ were coming this afternoon.” That’s a good benchmark. We have glancing blows of authenticity throughout our days, but every so often we are confronted with the immediacy of God’s hope for us. You have had those moments, I’m sure, hopefully not through a near death experience. For me, the moment was a sunrise. How about you?